One of Maureen's masks.
Fulfilling a dream
By Carole Green
Maureen Ritchie started making masks eight years ago and she and her husband dreamt of going to the Venice Carnival so Maureen could show them off. Tragedy intervened, but Maureen fulfilled her ambition. She tells us her story...
The creation of my masks began eight years ago when I was employed by a well know photographer in Canada. Knowing my sewing skills, he asked if I could make ten masks for the models of an elegant fashion show in a charity event he was hosting. The response I received was so overwhelming, it set a new course in my passion for sewing.
Maureen working on one of her masks.
Then, through an unusual series of events I returned to England, where I am originally from, for a tremendous family reunion where I met my husband Dave. We had both been single for nearly 20 years. I had always had an inner feeling that real love would come later in life and would be well worth the wait!
We were married in January 2003 and for the next few years truly shared a wonderful life together, surpassing my expectations. We discovered so very many things in common, but especially an enthusiasm for art - Dave with his photography and me with my sewing.
We inspired each other constantly in our mutual admiration of each other's gift and produced some of our best work together.
Then in April 2006 Dave was diagnosed with a serious bladder cancer which shook us both to the foundations. I couldn't imagine our love growing deeper, but it did during the following months when I nursed him.
Dave left us all on 17th March 2007. When I say it was bitter-sweet, I don't mean it lightly, it was bitter in that waiting a lifetime for each other and having it snatched away so quickly and painfully. And sweet, because we shared in our real love relationship, even though short, some people never get to experience at all.
Again I turned to my sewing which was grief therapy for me and I joined a bereavement group at St Leonards Hospice, where Dave spent the last two weeks of his life.
There I met two other widows who had both lost their husbands to cancer at the same time I did. We all believe our meeting was destiny as we have become the best of friends and are like sisters.
I shared a vision and plan that Dave and I had about participating in the Venice Carnival with my masks and Dave doing the photography. They, and my family encouraged me to go ahead, so I did.
Deb wearing the Renaissance gown.
My lovely step-daughter Deb was my main feature, wearing an authentic recreation 15th century Italian Renaissance gown with a matching mask, which I designed and sewed by hand. Friends Val and Gill wore two of my latest Renaissance masks.
My small collection has been years in the making. Each is made up of richly adorned fabrics, trims, an intricate variety of beads and accentuated with jewels, all of which I've been collecting for the past 20 years.
From the moment we arrived in St Mark's Square, the 'paparazzo' never stopped taking photographs. I believe the stir was caused by the fact that my masks looked nothing like the traditional harlequin type masks worn at carnival, and the Venetian shops sell.
The trip was the fulfillment of a personal dream!
last updated: 24/04/2008 at 14:59